"It's absolutely the responsibility of the school and those that fund the school to make sure that they provide, as a fundamental right to every child, the ability to go through their schooling years, feeling safe. That sets the bar pretty low. It's not exactly an outrageous claim to say that every child should feel safe, and therefore when they're not we need to deal with it." says Jonathan Nicholas, CEO of the Inspire Foundation.
The Inspire Foundation is the organisation behind leading youth mental health service ReachOut.com. Inspire helps young people lead happier lives. In March 2012, ReachOut.com received over 158,000 hits on their website. They have projects running that; support those with mental health issues; offer relevant and accessible services to those who suffer (and also for caring teachers) and also operate Youth Action Project that empowers those at risk or experiencing marginalisation to become active and involved in their local community.
Mr Nicholas says the first step to combating bullying is to understand it. He describes it as sustained verbal and/or physical victimisation. We often discount bullying as something that just 'happens' during school life. Liken it to the more adult concept of harassment; the feeling of being unsafe and the inability to freely go about your normal day. When harassment occurs during an individual's formative years the effects can be more damaging and long lasting.
Severe cases of bullying are being disclosed via the internet. Sadly, it has become a bragging platform for the aggressors. The increase in social media use, access to violent footage via the internet and the stresses in home and school-life all seem to be contributing to a surge in extremely violent and degrading styles of bullying to very worrying proportions.
School counsellors and chaplains
The pending issue to remove chaplains from schools or take away funding is concerning. I believe that every primary and high school should have a school counsellor, mentor and/or chaplain. Yes, there are other ways kids can find help, but will they do so? Many suffer in silence.
Scripture Union's website states about the chaplaincy program, "A School Chaplain is a safe person for young people to connect with at school, providing a listening ear, caring presence, and message of hope. They care for students struggling with a wide range of issues, including: family problems, confusing relationships, friendship issues, peer pressure, self-esteem issues, bullying and stress and anxiety." (www.suqld.org.au)
I recall back to my high school days - spending many lunchtimes sitting around talking to our school chaplain. I recall her being very cool, open to chat, available and extremely caring without judgement. If she had been removed from our school, I would have felt a gap in my teen years.
Pain at home
Many parents are in emotional pain due to their own circumstances, and inadvertently or negligently, the basic needs of their children are slipping by. This can cause emotional pain that can be unseen. Often children and teens will not seek help or talk to anyone. Perhaps for fear of being: victimised..again; judged; or the simple fact that it is unseen, therefore it may be accused that it is all 'in their head'.
The effects of unaddressed emotional pain can have devastating effects. What does a child tell themselves when their basic needs aren't met or they have no-one safe to talk to? They tell themselves they are unworthy of love, that no-one will listen and they have to deal with everything silently and by themselves.
With many organisations reaching out to children and teenagers, there is a journey of healing and hope ahead. If you have children or teens at home, start mending the communication between you or encourage them to seek out a trusted adult to confide in.
If you see or hear of others who are suffering, reach out. Like Renee Hunter of Pakenham who is using Facebook to reach out to teens in her sphere of influence.
"I may be nearly 42 but I was a teenager once - and if any of you on my Facebook ever want to talk please message me 'cause I am hear to listen - you only have 1 life."
"I know there are a lot of kids out there that can't talk to their parents and if it comes down to dying or talking to someone then I am here.....God has a purpose for everyone so talk to someone please."
Soon after her post Renee had 1 phone call and 6 private messages on Facebook. She says, "There is a real issue out there so please listen to your kids."
It is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. (Matthew 18:12)
Belinda Croft is married to Russell and she has a son BJ, 11 years. She has a heart and passion for God, writing, creativity, mission and social justice.
Belinda Croft's previous articles may be viewed at